The culture of community

I have addressed in former columns the less fortunate aspects of the Church’s culture. In January I wrote of the dangers of power as an occasion of sin. In December last year I wrote of the poor state of communication in the community of the Church. And a number of incidental references have been made within other columns. So here I want to look at some aspects and difficulties which hinder changing the culture of an organisation. I am not an ecclesiast so I must draw on my experience of the management of large corporate organisations.

The biggest hurdle, which may throw the rider at the first fence, is recognising clearly the difference between how the organisation sees itself and how it actually is. The former is aspiration, the latter is gauged from behaviour. (We all have experience of this in our nightly examination of conscience.)

Some simple examples may suffice. The organisation may present itself as open, consultative, and distinguished by its truthfulness. It may declare itself as constant in its values and principles of business since its foundation. It may lay claim to an authority of service rather than domination, allowing all decisions to be taken at the lowest practicable level. It may see itself as achieving a close-bonded community of mutual respect and concern – it may often use the term “family” to epitomise this.

Its behaviour may show whether this is a true description or a figment of management’s imagination. It will be sincere in its belief, and many or all of its lower ranks will collude. But a management consultant, who – having seen it all before – can spot the discrepancies, may have great difficulty in getting them accepted. I have heard many a management, viewing a consultant’s report, say: “Oh, but they don’t really understand our business”, when the problem is precisely that in this respect the consultant does. One reason for blindness to culture is, as it happens, Darwinian. That is, the members of the organisation soon recognise that they have to buy into the values if they wish to have a comfortable and successful career. If they are naturally adapted to this, they survive; if not, they are likely to leave. Over a period of time the membership becomes more and more homogeneous. This is reinforced because we have a neurological quirk which gives an arational error signal to our consciousness when we fail to conform to the values of our group. This is, of course, strengthened by the experience that we tend to be liked by those with whom we agree, and disliked by those from whom we dissent.

These phenomena become stronger and stronger as we move up the pecking order. After all, not only are the seniors likely to be more thoroughly impregnated with the culture but they have reached their senior positions by their ability to fit the culture. This is unfortunate because cultural change will almost always have to come from above.

It is here that the big issue enters. That issue, the first temptation laid before Adam and Eve by the Father of Lies, is love of power. Those who openly proclaim that they love power for its own sake are rare. Those who believe that they need power in order to do the good which only they can do are many. From failed senior politicians to hapless chief executives, faith in an ability to benefit their fellows only through their retention of power abounds. Obtaining and retaining power justifies lies, manipulation and the destruction of others. But this is not just at senior levels: turn your head through 360 degrees, and you will see love of power at every angle. Then look inside yourself, if you dare.

In fact, human beings need cultures if they are to live harmoniously in society; a propensity to conformity and a willing acceptance of authority has evolved so that human beings can flourish. But cultures are not ipso facto moral or immoral. They may be fundamentally flawed – such as Marxism, or fundamentally in line with humanity, such as democracy. But every culture has its strong points and its fault lines. And cultures continually change: usually this is gradual but, over a period, may be considerable. So every culture must always be open to examination, criticism and rectification. Robert Townsend, the management guru, had a frank friend whose job it was to call “hogwash” whenever appropriate. Every pope, indeed every bishop, should have a “hogwash” caller. Chief executives require a burr or two under their saddles.

Substantial change of culture is so hard to achieve that many corporations simply fail because they cannot adapt to need. That need may be a change in the market, technical innovation, legislation, growing inefficiency, creeping infidelity to mission and so on. While I have been speaking generally it is interesting to note the major cultural changes attempted at Vatican II, when the drafts produced by the Vatican Congregations (old culture) were thrown out by the bishops and replaced by a deeper grasp of the unchanging fundamentals. But the Congregations remained at the executive centre, while the bishops dispersed. And much of the old culture, established for two millennia, threatens to return.

We are now faced with a new crisis of culture. The occasion is the cover-up of clerical paedophilia, but that is only a symptom of a deeply indurated, indeed pre-medieval, culture of authority – at variance with the Gospel. Not only will it take generations to change, but it has not yet, as is so often the case, been recognised by the management, who – like Pope John in the 1960s – alone can initiate the long process of change.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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50 Responses to The culture of community

  1. claret says:

    It is depressingly evident that there is so much wrong with the current structure that it is virtually impossible for it to even begin to correct itself. At every level we see denial followed by a refusal to do much more than issue yet another apology as each scandal is exposed.
    The structure is now being shown to be rotten to the core and the ones who can initiate change can be likened to ‘turkeys voting for Christmas.’ They just will not do it. Power and wealth have their vice-like grip and even if there was a genuine desire for change there is not the mechanism to bring it about.
    Where is the structure for the laity to be involved in decision making? It is non-existant at parish level never mind in the corridors of power in the Vatican!
    We could hardly make a worse job of it if we appointed a Board of atheists to come up with rules on how to run the Church.

  2. Red Maria says:

    Er, how is Marxism a culture?

  3. Red Maria, that depends on the context. Marxism per se could be described by those who, doubtless like yourself, are well read in the subject as a millenarianist, teleological based, materialist philosophy. But your average “marxist” simply has a way of thinking, interpreting and acting whose connection with Marxism is tenuous. Similarly, Catholicism has a precise definition but it also has a collective way of thinking and acting which constitutes its culture. Historically this has modified, sometimes for better sometimes for worse.

  4. st.joseph says:

    Claret ,what decisions would you like the laity to be involved in?

  5. peterdwilson says:

    I take Claret’s point, but believe that his pessimism is misdirected. The problem lies not so much in the Church’s structure as in human nature. The current scandals specifically concern the offenders themselves and the bishops who in effect colluded with their misconduct; far too many in absolute terms, of course, but still a relatively small proportion – so far as we know.

    The Church is of divine institution but human organisation, and has evidently developed something of the tendency common in organisations to put loyalty to itself before duty towards those it supposedly serves. Our own bishops seem to understand this (I suspect they may indeed have over-reacted, but perhaps that was inevitable) and so does Pope Benedict, but whether recognition of the danger has penetrated the Vatican bureaucracy may be another matter.

    Nevertheless, maybe a simpler structure would serve the Church better. In the days when it offered the only route to social advancement for men of humble origin, it could attract the most capable into its service. That situation has changed, in one sense very much for the better, but I wonder whether the quality of ecclesiastical management and administration may have suffered in consequence. Perhaps the breadth and quality of the available cloth needs to be reviewed and the tailoring of the coat adjusted according to what really must be covered.

  6. Horace says:

    claret;
    You sound very despondent but problems like this – perhaps even worse – have been with us for a very long time; see my comment (20 Jan 2010) on the post Ecclesia corrupta (14 Jan 2010). I know it is only a story but it does illustrate how people were thinking about the Church and the Papacy even 500 years ago!

    As I see it the present ‘culture of apologetics’ (pun intended) confuses matters even more.

    Apropos the laity being involved in decision making, have a look at

    for a different (albeit American) opinion.

  7. st.joseph says:

    I read some where, there is a bee in nature that first paralyses its victim, and then lays her eggs within its body, so that at hatching time her young will literally eat their way from the inside out.
    Then there is the prophecy of Cardinal Newman:
    I am happy that I am living in this age when the enemy of the Catholic Church is outside the Church. I can see where he is, and if he attacks me, I know where an attack is coming from.
    But the time will come when the RELIGION OF REASON will make an invasion of the Catholic Church, and the enemy will be inside and outside, and the poor Catholics who want to be faithful in that day and age will be caught in the crossfire.

    Please God save us from the progressive ,liberal ,modernists,as the web says ,that Horace posted. We need more Faith taught in our schools so that our young people will leave armed in battle to face the world. It is no good watering it down so that all religions will be the same. That is just false ecumenisn.
    I am sad to say that our bishops have fallen into that error for the sake of unity at all costs.Catholics who wanted to remain faithful to the fullness of Truth have suffered endlesly at their hands. Where catholics have been trying to bring Christ to the world, we have been battling ‘within’ the church where the errors were happening- especially with the misintereptations of Vatican 2 by liberals. Maybe this has been a ‘wake up call ‘for our bishops !They may now concentrate on the issues in our chiurch.
    I WILL not be despondent or let my faith be lost by the ‘bees’ laying its eggs’ in the church. I will keep on burning their nests and forever remain unpopular!

  8. John says:

    One of my (many) struggles is, how to talk in terms of the culture of the organisation and change, when that organisation is the body of Christ – the management is God. The problem involves separating the human and the divine aspects of church, when the two are in many ways inseparable. What I need is a theologian’s as well as a business perspective. In the absence of this I run for my Catechism:

    The church – One complex reality with two components– human and divine –‘body of death and temple of light’ – a visible hierarchical society and at the same time the spiritual, mystical body of Christ, with every member of it (i.e us) being a sharer in Christ’s priestly office (CCC 771 and 786).

    O.K. So what we are suffering clearly exemplifies the body of death. (It’s almost a relief to see this quoted in the Catechism). But where is the line between the body of death and the temple of light? Is there a line at all? Is this part of the root problem displayed by its members? And when does highlighting wrong become itself part of the attack?

  9. st.joseph says:

    We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, He being the Head. We each have different gifts which we are to use for the Mission of the church. We share in His Resurrection. But Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t ‘suffer’.We also share in the sufferings of the church on our journey to Heaven.
    The problem is that if we are not educated in the Faith we will not be able to Evangelize. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, but unless we are taught how to evangelize or become a Missionery we are unable to correct error.Missionary work is not only going to the third world countries and helping the poor.
    I dont know that highlighting wrong is a part of the attack.It could be the salvation of someones Soul. (The main reason for us to be here)and our own of course. Denying our children ,who are first Gods children the knowledge they require for there salvation must be a grevious offence against God. So we need to correct error
    We are all living in the Light now and there is no excuse for ignorance.We ought to thank God for His Church there is more Good than ‘not’ in We need more people to find out whats wrong and help to put it right. I am sure there are lots of men who could be called to be Deacons!

  10. claret says:

    This catologue of a worldwide abuse by clerics and the subsequent cover ups have nothing to do with education in our schools or something else to lay at the foot of Vatican 2 as though it was the source of all our ills. Nor can it be dissmissed as some kind of conspiracy by ‘progressive, liberal modernists.’
    What we have is an organisation and structure that is patently ‘unfit for purpose,’ to coin a phrase.
    The teachings of the Church need to be separated from the structure. Many of the teachings will be a constant but the structure needs to be dragged into the 21 st century. Times have changed and moved on and the Church needs to move with it because what we currently have is something that is rotten to the core and needs fixing.
    There should be some kind of commission set up to examine firstly why so many paedophiles saw / see in the structure of the Catholic Church a haven for their perverted desires to be fulfilled.
    This Commission should be made up of suitably qualified lay people. There needs to be a committment to act on the recommendations.
    (My personal opinion is that the celibate lifestyle sets a tone where such desires can flourish.)
    The Commission should include women members and some people of a younger age than our current crop of Bishops.
    It is time for the Church to stop taking a false pride in its total lack of democracy. To stop paying lip service to laity involvement and actually bring it about with purpose and credibility.
    The Church can make a start by purposefully reforming itself and stop putting sticking plasters on weeping wounds.

  11. st.joseph says:

    Claret did I say that Vatican 2 was to blame for all the ills in the church today. Vatican 2 was a Pastoral Council not Doctrinal.The misinterpretation was made by all those progressive, liberal and modernists jumping on the band wagon openly disenting on the teachings of the Church. Obviousley you were not around in the 70s 80s and 90s to know much about that.!
    Pope Benedict has since 2001 done a lot to sort the scandals and put things in order.
    You could turn your ‘coin’ around and look at the Beauty in the Church of Jesus Christ. It isn’t all bad and rotten to the core.
    I know it hurts you,but however you could show it a little more respect than the abusive words you use.
    We all try in our own way to put things right and to see that our bishops are not being led astray by the secular.We have a moral duty to do this, but as I have said before with kindness
    and respect
    Do you think that when the paedophile scandals have died down
    we will be back to normal and we will see proper Faith instruction taught in our schools, proper sex education in line with the teachings of the church. Proper Marriage Care with N.F.P taught as compulsory knowledge for all newly married couples,Abortion laws changed, porn shops closed, Television cleaned up. Our young people modestly dressed. Morning after pill not given out freely to 11yr olds only to be abused by older teenagers etc etc etc.
    Wouldnt that be a wonderful world to greet the second coming of Christ! Not forgetting that He is already in every Tabernacle in the Church and He Greets us there every day at Holy Mass.

    Thank God for the Divine Mercy the Feast Day we celebrated last Sunday-where millions of catholics offered up prayers for all those poor sinners-including ourselves in need of His Mercy.
    Jesus said’ no sin is too scarlet that it can’t be forgiven.
    (I believe that to include paedophiles)if we are repentant and we dont know who doesn”t repent.
    You seem to think that women will be able to put things right I have served on Parish Councils and Diocesan Patoral Councils within the church mostly females for over 40yrs.
    It is all very well presenting the problems, but the difficulties are implementing them!

    The Catholic Church is a Holy Church by the very fact that Her teachings are the Truth. We ought to thank God for all the blessings we receive from Her.

  12. claret says:

    St Joseph,
    You are quite right in what you post on here. My concern is that it will never ‘die down’ and that our moral messages which you write about are fatally compromised because of what has been committed by Catholic clergy ( of which i am one!) and then covered up by a hierarchy that was more concerned about protecting itself than serving the people.

    The scandals are such that they never do end. Country after country is revealing scandals hidden for years and only now coming to the fore. There is something rotten here.
    Africa will be next . Indeed there is evidence already emerging. The Archbishop of Johannesberg has already spoken recently and publicly about it. Regrettably Pope Benedict is also compromised by some of his decisions that are coming to light that he made when he was a Cardinal.
    Lift a stone and you cannot control what crawls out from under it.
    If we saw more Bishops in plain vestments and carrying wooden crooks then that might be a start.
    I see many faithful Catholics at daily Mass who are totally bewildered by what is happening to their Church. They are the ones I feel for ( and all the victims of horrific abuse.)
    There is some good that can come from this but it needs to be properly grasped and not dealt with piecemeal in the vain hope that it will all eventually ‘die down.’

  13. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Claret for what you say.
    All this scandal also affects the laity. This is maybe a wake up call for all those who have stuck their heads in the sands over the years and went along with all the liberal thinkers because of fashion. I dont think parishioners gave a lot of thought as to what was happening in society which was also affecting the church and family life One could see it in the apathy that was shown when asking for support for the unborn. In fact even now ,although it is getting better, but literature about unborn babies was refused, or ignored.Asking for support for events was miminal.The Pentecostal ‘s were a credit with their support.
    This is not my own experience but all over I hear from others. If more parents had been involved in the R.E in the schools we would not have our young people so ignorant. The amount of children at pre-school who hardly knew how to make the sign of the Cross or knew their prayers was a fine example of how much their Faith meant to them. I have said in past posts how N.F.P was never an issue with mothers- they were content to use other methods. Their choice of course ,but no benefit to helping the cause, when ‘open ‘dissent was no worry to them. I
    believe that a personal conscience is between a person and God, for serious reasons. But most reasons are not ‘serious”
    I do understand what you say, but I am looking from the laity perspective.
    Unlike you ,I would like the scandal to die down, for the simple reason that I believe it will do no good as you believe for our church. Young people have difficulty already(not all)) but the sooner it is recognised as a problem now to being solved- even though there will be more cases from the past coming to light.I feel for the victims-we dont know how all this continued agravation is hurting them more. As long as they can be made aware that the problem is in hand they can feel consoled.
    I dont mwan to disagree with you for the sake of it but have to speak as I find, as you have to, and as long as we respect each other while doing so the Holy Spirit will guide us. I try not to despair and to have Hope otherwise I would have given up long ago. I think that the church is more concerned in numbers instead of the quality of their Faith!

  14. Claret, it is hard not to be sensible of your pain at the truly terrible paedophile scandals. – scarcely helped by, frankly, oafish comments from senior people. Yes, the Church has suffered grievously and will continue to do so – just as we still suffer from the Inquisition and Galileo et al. Why am I not as pessimistic as you? I’m not sure, but here are some random thoughts.

    1 On Sunday I heard a brief but beautiful homily from a young Portuguese deacon. It was a simple message: Christianity is not a system of belief, it is a relationship with Christ which makes us children of God. That is still true.
    2 Today I received the Eucharist from a Jesuit priest. I know him to be a good man, but his virtue is not the point – his ability to celebrate the Eucharist is.
    3 I know my history. There have always been scandals in the Church, and there always will be. If scandals invalidate the Church, it was invalidated hundreds of years ago. This may be the Church of the paedophile priest and the cowardly bishop. But it is also the Church of Archbishop Romero.
    4 When I look inside myself I find the Church, warts and all, in miniature. Like St Paul I sometimes seem to get a little closer to what I want to be; all too often I fall grossly short. Yet God is going to fight tooth and nail to get me in the end – he has already allowed himself to be crucified for me – personally. He will not let go of his Church lightly. In fact we have his guarantee

  15. Michael Mahoney says:

    There is a persistent cry among some commentators that, but for the misinterpreters of Vatican 2, all would be well within the Church. The faithful would be schooled in their catechisms, the family rosary said, the confessionals jammed with penitents and total abstinence or NFP practised in the marriage bed. All of which, however, is to completely ignore the fact that the generation who brought about Vatican 11, that is if it was not the Holy Spirit, and thereafter supposedly misinterpreted it, was the same generation that was brought up in the very culture that is now longed for as a lost paradise.
    Vatican 11 and its aftermath certainly led to many changes in the Church that were internal to it. But it also accidentally spawned another change, external to it, which is much more difficult for a monolithic organisation to deal with. Or, perhaps, I should say the media spawned it with inside help, for they revealed to the world that the venerable institution, the Roman Catholic Church, was very much a Church Politic, riven with reported plots and the bitter clashes of Cardinals and Bishops. And, indeed, so has the media spotlight continued with revelation after revelation, not only of political factions, but of crooked clerical bankers, Junta cosying cardinals, Legionaries of Christ, paedophile abuse and, of course, cover up uncovered – none of it in anyway as bad a in past ages, but looked at in a very different light in the world today. Perhaps the world has some small things to teach us!
    At any rate, the intense scrutiny of the media is not going to go away, but will intensify. If it sniffs secrecy, it will expose the secrets. If it spots hypocrisy, it will, with its own hypocritical glee, revel in unmasking it. It would seem prudent then, in these circumstances, to eschew some of the pomp and splendour that once edified all, but now, for some, smacks of mighty hubris. Perhaps a change of costume, a downsizing of the curia, a shift from the centralisation of every aspect of Church life to one of decentralising, and the move of the papal court to a more modest location would also improve the image. After all, in biblical times, Rome was synonymous with Caesar and how can you render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s if you are also Caesar with nuncios dispatched to an empire all around the world.

  16. st.joseph says:

    Just a small point. N.F.P is not practised.
    Fertility Awareness is knowledge of how ones body functions.

  17. claret says:

    So much is being covered on this topic into all aspects of our faith that is proving difficult to be selective!
    St. Joseph writes ( I think with sadness rather than any other emotion, ) at what is seen as a lack of ‘practice’ of the faith from many of those in the pews. I can share his despair especially on ‘Life’ issues as it something I too have witnessed. The free publication ‘Pro-Life Times’ is made available but I doubt if a handful of parishioners take a copy ( I am though indebted to a couple of parishioners who force the publication into others hands!) and yet the white flower appeal is always well supported as are ‘SPUC’ coffee mornings. So perhaps there is something that stirs the Catholic conscience in a quiet sort of way.
    I also have to remind myself that most baptised catholics don’t go anywhere near their Church so it is folly to criticise those who do.
    On the issues raised by Michael Maloney I would hope that my previous posts would show that I agree with much of what he says.
    If my posts smack of despair it is because I feel that in all this mess there is yet an opportunity to really do something radical but that there is neither the mechanism nor the will to do so by those in a position to bring it about.
    Consequently instead of presenting the Church to the World as wanting to ‘reform’ itself it has no other mechanism than to issue a series of apologies and piecemeal regulation of ‘abuse prevention’ ( varying in intensity from zero upwards, ) that will hopefully achieve some small term aims but fall far short of the bigger changes that are needed.
    It appals me that there is not one single female voice in the whole institution of over a billion living souls (of which half are female,) that has any authorative say in how the Church is run.
    I wonder too what many people must think when alongside the child abuse scandals we see Bishops dressed in finery and style more suited to the Middle Ages who are issuing apologies and yet parading themselves in Rome. (To repeat an earlier question , why not wooden shepherd’s crooks any more?) A good dose of humility is what is called for along with apologies.
    It needs a worldwide acknowledged need for the Church to come up with something a whole lot better, and a whole lot more democratic, and a whole lot younger attitude, and a whole lot more female and lay involvement in the decision making process than what we have now. What we currently have has proved to be a disgraced set up. This is not about individuals, it is about an Institution that is no longer fit for purpose in its structure.
    It can change but it won’t. It gets even worse because it won’t even start. When I read and hear of yet another apology I won’t to scream IT’S NOT ENOUGH.

  18. st.joseph says:

    Vatican 2 was a Council for the laity to become more involved in spreading the Gospel.
    Ecumenism sharing our faith with other churches.The Holy Spirit was supposed to move people to spread the Word in society.
    Mass in English was a big transformation as to how we Worship God in the Mass (we were not all Latinists) not wanting change). I resent what Michael Mahoney’s wide sweeping remarks when he says that commentators who blame the misinterpretation of Vat 2 – long for the lost paradise!
    People of my age know what is lost and that is the Faith in all its fullness, watered down in fact.It is not just a case of ‘saying’ the Rosary- the Rosary is a Gospel prayer-not just something of the past. Confessional jammed packed is not an issue. Quality of confession is better than quantity.
    Marriage and the family was some how lost in the translation of the brand new world.
    We have had plenty of modern day thinkers spreading their destruction of the Church in England and unfortunately Bishops and Priests were hypmotized by them.Re-ordering of churches became the priority. Contraceptive mentality took over so therefore Natural Family Planning did not stand a chance with the so called liberation of women.
    A priest said to me once that he was sitting in his office doing the bulletin and the laity were taking Holy Communion to the sick. Now I have nothing aginst that but I feel that priests were getting more and more bogged down with sitting at meetings getting loaded down with secular problems and the spiritual welfare of which was really their vocation -to visit the sick, pastoral care to young mothers when the burden of looking after young children would have been been some contact with a priest.(not all priests are paedophiles).
    As I said on a earlier post I can’t comment on the corruption of the church and would have no opinion how it would change.
    Michael Mahoney does make some fair comments but how it would be implemented I wouldnt have a clue. I would say a good beginning is that the bishops could listen to the laity whose concern for the future well being of our children and family life and R.E in schools would be a start!In our own back yard to ‘coin ‘a phrase. Rome is a long way away!

  19. eclaire says:

    Thank God for St Joseph.

  20. eclaire says:

    …and, of course, st.joseph

  21. eclaire says:

    Claret writes that ‘there should be some kind of commission set up to examine firstly why so many paedophiles saw/see in the structure of the Catholic Church a haven for their perverted desires to be fulfilled’. In response, I should like to suggest something that undoubtedly will not go down well on this Blog. I believe that a good part of the reason why we find ourselves where we are, is precisely because our bishops and others in positions of authority within the Church (especially since Vatican II), have been falling over backwards to be seen to be ‘modern’, ‘liberal’, ‘tolerant’, ‘with it’, ‘charming’, ‘charismatic’, ‘one of us’; they lacked the backbone needed to exercise proper and legitimate authority, for example, they failed to oversee/implement more stringent rules for admission to seminaries. They live(d) in keeping with the times and were embarrassed by their own authority, wishing to make it less apparent to a world-wide, liberal-thinking public. They have been lax and, indeed, have not been loyal to the Church, but only to their own ends. (However, I do not doubt that had they been steadfast, there would have been loud, collective cries denouncing their intolerance and lack of Christian charity; they would have been told they were too authoritarian and not flexible enough. Even now, whenever our besieged, but formidable Pope and his true friends in Christ attempt to tighten up the rules (and reaffirm Church teaching as well as emphasize a most urgent need for increased devotion and prayer, one hears complaints that he is too strict, unbending, etc; (the poor man cannot win -thank God that he manages to rise above the constant baying, neighing and general prattle of the secular media and others). Further, it seems to me that many bishops (not all), have shown consistence in one thing alone – their disobedience to the Church’s teachings and to the Pope. These bishops have been the ones who pride themselves as being independent thinkers; their (individual) wills have been done (as, for example, in the refusal to sign and approve Humanae Vitae. Once again, I suspect that this was basically because, their primary concern was to show the world that the Church was less antiquated and more willing to be in step with what people wanted – the times they lived in went to their heads. They had to appear understanding and open-minded (especially in the area of sexual relations, n’est ce pas?); in a nutshell, they did not want to be unpopular. Consequently, they abandoned the truth of the Truth. The people came first, the Truth, second. And still, there are some who refuse to put the teachings of the Vicar of Christ first. Worst of all, is that it is these very same people who then complain the loudest when the consequence of that disobedience manifests itself in a variety of ways.
    It is very true that power is dangerous; it is insidious, as is wealth. However, like it or not, both are (and always will be) very necessary. Quentin writes; ‘Obtaining and retaining power justifies lies, manipulation and the destruction of others.’ That strikes me as a very sweeping comment, though it may seem true in many cases. However, I should like to know how anyone can hope to benefit anyone else (in a material sense), if they have no power (influence) to do so. I suspect, rather, that part of the problem lies not so much with power and authority themselves, but with WHO possesses these (let not the Church have power, let the laity have it instead). There are people who hold positions of authority and power and exercise both with genuine charity and caution; these are the people who pray an awful lot, who understand that power and authority are precious gifts of God. When it is necessary, they are equally firm and so they should be.
    Finally, the laity and the priesthood are not the same and attempts to blurr the distinctions existing between them is just another way of slowly destroying the Church, as is the desire to make of the Church a type of Society of Friends. Indeed, it was Stephen Fry, no less, who said that the Catholic Church should be more like the Quakers. Now I wonder why he said that? It seems he might have many supporters on this Blog. We need faithful, holy, humble, firm and courageous leaders, not sycophantic weaklings to lead Christ’s Church.

  22. eclaire says:

    I mean ‘have been consistent’ above.

  23. eclaire, I like to feel that every view which is well argued is popular on this Blog. To my mind, he (or she) who does not value and learn from views with which they do not agree is the loser.
    At this stage I only want to raise one point which your last post brings into prominence. We speak of power, authority and influence without always clarifying whether there is a difference between these three – and which we mean.
    My starting point would be that Christ has power, but spoke as one who had authority, yet described his role as that of a servant. And, to throw in for good measure today’s gospel, Peter’s power was described as sustenance: “Feed my lambs.”
    Surely our ideal of ecclesiastical power should start from here.

  24. st.joseph says:

    Jesus handed over His ‘power ‘to St Peter when he gave him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven -on the Rock on which He built His Church.He also gave St Peter the ‘Authority ‘to loose and bind. At that point St Peter became the ‘Servant’ of The Church founded on Jesus Christ to ‘feed’His lambs’
    Sustenence yes-by His Word made Flesh and spoken.
    He told St Peter that he would be taken where he would not want to go-with a belt around his waist. The suffering and death he would have because of speaking the Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ.
    St Peter was weak before he witnessed the Resurrection, as was St Thomas(Gospel reading today)We all know what Jesus said to Thomas’You believe because you have seen,
    blessed are those who believe and have not seen’
    The Apostles were in a position to believe and be ready to die for their Faith.
    We have been given the faith to uphold in season and out of season. Of course love is important without it,faith is like a ‘Gong’ or words to that effect, but one will know what I mean.
    But love without faith can be misconstrued for the Divine Love that Jesus died on the Cross for. We can not have a true relationship with God if we do not know Him, or not know what He expects of us.
    People go to Mass on Sunday and it is expected of them to Worship God-and to receive the greatest Gift of all .As Jesus said ‘I live in you and you in Me.

    I am a very confused with the discussion about the Culture of the Church and wanting the structure to change.
    I believe that the structure we have is what is given to St Peter.I keep thinking about the scandals and wonder how that has to fit into the structure. I dont believe all I read in the media.
    I agree with eclair and what he says and a few other comments that were made, with the church being Divine. I dont think it can be run as an organisation. The structure to me is alright, but the infilteration of .those wanting to change the church especially the Catholics for a changing church and other lobby groups is a scandal which should have been put to sleep long ago. The semineries were infilterated with modernists, hence the shortage of vocations, only the wrong kind accepted.
    The Pope made it quite clear in ‘Veritatis Splendour’ that bishops have a duty as bishops, to be vigilant that the Word of God be faithfully taught and more. It made me wonder at the time what Cardinal Hume and his fellow bishops would do about the ‘Catholic for a changing Church movement.

    Proffessor Mary Grey speaking at the Newman Society of Friends
    proclaiming her ‘ideas’ of the One Holy Catholic Church
    ,’Christ never established a priesthood”nor even the church. She also claimed that Jesus came preaching the Kingdom,what happened was the church. With a whole hour or more of her dissenting opinions with clapping from priests who were at that meeting in 1993 is a fine example of the way the CFACC and Woman Church were spreading their errors in this country. And believe it was advertised in parish bulletins.I know I was there and have a tape of the evening. Also we had Matthew Fox doing his rounds.
    The moral of this story is-if catholics who loved their faith and loved the church- and loved the Pope, had not known their faith and done nothing our church would be in a worse state than what it is now!
    I can hear the words from some saying ‘what has that to do with the scandals of today.’
    We have had so many organisations infilterating in our church even before Vat 2.
    I believe it is not so much corruption as a conspiracy.

    I would like to think that all those who want a change, won’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
    “Lucifer has never forgiven our Lord for re-establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth. Prior to that time as he boasted in the desert, ‘All the Empires of the World have been given over to me and I give them to whom I will. Worship me and all this is yours.”For re-establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth and overthrowing the power of Hell. Hell for over two thousand years has been plotting revenge and the destruction of Gods Kingdom. So we should expect that we are at war with the devil, we never know what he is going to throw at us next!

  25. James H. says:

    I wonder if the culture of authority is actually ‘pre-medieval’, as Quentin says. I imagine it dates precisely from the medieval, feudal mindset, where all authority carried the same weight (and was capable of the same sanctions) as that of the military. In pre-medieval times wasn’t the Pope elected by the freemen of Rome?

    I think after the current disaster there will be a hogwash-caller in most dioceses, or nationally. That’s been the one positive result of the scandal, and some of the best hope for the future.

    John made good points, and posed the important question, “And when does highlighting wrong become itself part of the attack?”
    I think the answer, as in all things, is to follow the truth of each matter (where the world follows the money!) – the dividing line between death and light traces out where truth separates from innuendo, half-truth and outright lying. For example, it’s a fact that the church in general was more concerned with avoiding embarrassment than seeking justice (show me an organisation that isn’t); it’s a lie that Cdl Ratzinger was responsible for removing abusive clergy from office before 2001.

    In finding out what the truth is, we can’t rely on the ‘meedja’. It’s not a case of not being able to believe what you read in the papers, rather a case of not being able to believe _anything_ you read in the papers, where the church is concerned. Fortunately, there are abundant independent sources of information, on weblogs and non-newspaper websites. Isn’t technology wonderful?

  26. st.joseph, your’e right in my view to question the difference between change of structure and culture. I find this analogy helps me. Imagine two adjacent parishes. The each have their own pps who are delegated similar authority and work under similar responsibilities as laid down by Canon Law. So their structure is the same.
    But their cultures are quite different. Fr A is an open and friendly man. He encourages voluntary activity within the parish, and he is always looking for ways in which to build a sense of community. When he wants to introduce some change of consequence in the parish he consults as widely as possible. Of course the decision will be up to him, but every one knows that he has listened to a range of views. The members of the parish know each other pretty well, and there is a general awareness who who might be in need of help, or simply company.
    Fr B believes that everything is down to the pp. He makes all the decisions, and he is very careful to keep any voluntary work under his control. Few people meet and chat after Mass; and in fact many parishioners prefer to attend Mass at the next parish.
    The interesting thing is that although Fr B has a very definite idea of the powers of a parish priest his ‘subjects’ are reluctant to listen to him. Fr A on the other hand, who rarely lays down the law, has a great deal of influence.
    Of course that contrast is stark (although I quite often hear distress stories from Catholics who live in the Fr B type of parish), but perhaps it shows the difference between structure and culture.
    I believe that the structure of the worldwide Church is just as Christ intended it to be (I do not include the Curia here; we are still awaiting its reform which was requested by Vatican II) but I think that much of its culture – which is man made – requires some pretty fundamental change.

  27. claret says:

    We might not like it but things have changed and what has changed them is the terrible scandals that are being exposed almost daily and with many more yet to come.
    We should never lose sight of this awful reality.
    These scandals have many deep rooted causes but to somehow seek to ignore them and carry on much as before in the hope that eventually all will settle down is just not going to happen.
    The Church , as an institution, and how some of its ‘officers’ have used that institution to fulfill there own desires, has been exposed to the glare of the whole world, and its reputation is permanently scarred ( at least,) and virtually destroyed (at worst.)
    What makes it even worse is the totally haphazard way in which it is governed.
    The Church of today is much removed from that of the early Church ( it started to fall away as soon as adherents did not want to share their worldy posessions any more – around 6 AD at a guess!) So to hark back to some kind of halcyon time you would have to go back to 5 AD !
    Change has been forced on the Church in the past just as our view of God has changed from the OT to the NT.
    To somehow put ourselves above the need to reform is a further scandal.
    The present structure has lamentably failed the most vulnerable and the constant squirming around in a cess pit of its own making is not any kind of solution. Radical change is the only answer and to acheive this means looking ‘without’ and not ‘within.’

  28. Claret, I wonder whether you have had a chance to read “The Reform of the Papacy” by Archbishop John R Quinn (former Archbp of San Francisco and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops), It was written as a response to JPII’s call for counsel on making the papacy more credible. I used it a great deal for my book “Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church”
    Although Quinn was not at that time addressing the paedophile question you might well agree that he goes a long way towards the kind of fundamental reform you feel is needed. And of course he speaks as an insider. he is of course entirely loyal to the Church, while pointing up the major changes he believes to be needed. I notice that Amazon UK have some used copies, going for a song.

  29. Michael Mahoney says:

    The problems in the Church are far more complex than some would have us believe. No-one, for instance and unfortunately, could accuse the religious superiors of the Magdalene Laundries or the Christian Brother orphanages and reformatories of the sins of liberalism and tolerance and, though the leader of the Legionaries of Christ was certainly charismatic, he did also certainly imposed a draconian regime on his seminarians and priests that was more to do with the thought police than a fraternal religious community. Then, we also know from the Murphy Report in Ireland and the Jay Report of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that cases of child abuse and their cover up well preceded the so much deplored liberalising of our seminaries. What a pity though that these modernist, trendy and ‘one of us’ religious were not more with it- that is with the better values of what we want for a democratic, civic minded, respectful and tolerant modern world. At least that is the world that our children and grandchildren instinctively seek and wish to live in.
    We will not solve our problems with witch hunts, denunciations, the banning of books and silencing of people within and outside the Church, but by honest and open debate about everything that is important to us, to our children and to our Church.
    And in that respect, I do know of a very charismatic bishop who successfully bucked the conservative position of a very holy Pope. I won’t tell you his name. But our co-religionist, the Quakers, who know their New Testament even if they still believe in remaining open to further enlightenment and who try to live by their understanding of the gospel message, they would know.

  30. st.joseph says:

    A lady told me the other day and ( I find it hard to believe) that children in the choir were castrated years ago in case of child abuse. How wicked is that!I didnt want to know any more details.
    As Michael Mahoney says things must have been going wrong for many years gone by for the current crisis to have arisen.
    What ever changes are needed now they must bring the Church closer to what Christ wanted.

  31. claret says:

    Quentin,
    Thank you for pointing me in the direction of the book ‘The Reform of the Papacy,’ of which I was unaware until now. I can only assume though that its call for reform ‘fell on deaf ears.’
    There is just not the mechanism for change unless the Pope was to call another Council and the Bishops voted themselves out of office!
    I truly fear that we will just continue bumbling along, lurching from one crisis to the next, until the Pope is the only Catholic left on earth.

  32. st.joseph says:

    You are probabley right in what you say.
    When that day comes,then hopefully we will all be happy in Heaven ,where we will all be singing along Merrily the Hymn we used to sing as children. ‘God Bless our Pope-God Bless our Pope-God Bless our Pope -the Great the ‘All’.

    (Just to make you smile)

  33. Michael Mahoney says:

    We are all very much aware these days of the global crisis brought on by the corporate greed and recklessness of our major financial institutions. And so there is much talk of their restructuring and of the reform of the regulatory bodies so that this culture that put the whole country in jeopardy might be forever eradicated.
    In his comment of the 19th April, Quentin gave us an analogy of the relationship between structure and culture, in the way in which two parishes might reflect the very different cultural outlooks of their parish priests, for better and for worse, even though they operated under the same regulatory structure of Canon Law. But what I found myself lost to understand in this analogy was the nature of this structure which had so little bearing on the way in which a priest might operate within his parish. Surely it must have been the same laissez faire structures that was in force in the Metropolitan Police before the McPherson report shook that institution to its racist roots.
    Nonetheless, it is a very apposite tale because the police station like the parish is a microcosm of the whole institution. It is in the parish that we are received into the Church and where throughout the pivotal points in our lives we receive the sacraments. It is in the parish church that we come together and worship as a community. It is in the parish school that our children are formally educated in their Catholic faith.
    Why is it then, that in this fundamental community, such differences of culture arise? Why is it that a parish priest can choose, without any consultation with parishioners, to close down this or that society, societies and groups such as the choir, the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the scouts or the brownies, the toddlers club or the social club, all groups where dedicated lay people have given most generously of their time and skills to the great benefit of the parish community? What, indeed, are the organisational and juridical structures of the Church that endorse or permit such things to happen.
    There is, I believe, a symbiotic relationship between the culture and the structure of any organisation. As one changes, the other comes to change. So it is that we no longer see parish priests thinking to appoint their protégés to the position of head teacher of the parish school without the proper convening of a meeting or the taking of minutes, not because the Church has changed any structure, but because the Government, mindful of its responsibility in respect of any institution funded by tax payers money, has reformed the governance of the schools and changed their culture. No longer do parish priests think to publicly interrogate prospective teachers and the parents of prospective pupils on their marital status and sex lives, not because the Church has changed any structures, but because, the Government, mindful of its duty to ensure the equality and dignity of its citizens has legislated against such demeaning practices and changed the culture. No longer do the teachers in voluntary aided Catholic schools think to administer corporal punishment, not because the Church has made changes to its structures, but because the Government has changed the rules that would permit such a culture. And so the list may go on.
    What is wrong with the organisation of the Church? In my opinion, it is and for long has been the woeful lack of effective and transparent structures to mandate accountability, structures that do not call into question the authority of office, but do moderate the exercise of that office. We do know that priests are answerable to bishops and bishops to the Pope, all in camera, but where is the accountability or any transparency in the reverse direction, all the way down to the parishioner in the pew. Or is that a thoroughly heretical thought? We have fostered a caste culture within the Church and that has contributed to the criminal abuse of office and its cover up and has resulted in the pariah status of the Church in the eyes of most of the world’s media today.

  34. st.joseph says:

    Perhaps parishioners are not interested in becoming involved in Parish life and how it works Both Spiritual and social.(or I ought to say not enough of them) are prepared to give their time. I realise that families have a duty at home first and foremost and have all sorts of difficulties in family life -maybe unemployment and sickness etc. We should not judge-but however I will make a small point of which I notice without of course being critical as we must meet peole where they are in their spiritual road to Heaven as that is the prime reason of our parish life.There is a catholic school next to a parish church and on a regular basis there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.Whereby watchers are asked for. Parents take their children to school where Mass is Celebrated after the 9.0.school time- who would never think of just saying ‘hello’ to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but will idly talk with mothers outside.
    Picking up their children fom school, won’t spend one minute before or after with their children. How can we then expect the future generation to grow up respecting the church. It must all begin with prayer(not just saying prayers) but a prayer Life.
    Children have a lovely way of expressing their love to Jesus if they are encouraged to do so. I am not speaking generally only what I have experienced. How many priests visit homes now.
    It is one thing to be involved with the raising of funds for third world countries and church fund raising, etc,(not saying that we shouldn’t do that but without the close relationship with Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother. the church then becomes a organisation so no wonder our teenagers (not all) have no spiritual relationship with the church.Our Spiritual Life is not just for Sundays.
    I like Quentins anology of Fr a and Fr b this has a lot to do with the priests knowledge of family life, experience of how to deal charitably when situations arise and conflicts within parish life, selsishness, lack of understanding, and if a priest can do a little ‘bullying’.then he gets his own way! I can see Michael Mahoneys thoughts on the people in the pew and culture from the top-but if the people in the pew have no interest in changing the church as to how Jesus Christ wants it-simply because they dont know what God wants in the first place.!

    A small reflection on how children will understand. My youngest grandson who is 6, when he was at infants school at 4. I collected him and occasionally took him into church to light a candle. He always waved to the Blessed Sacrament when he left. I said to him one day ‘You know that Jesus is not only in the Tabernacle-I didnt want him to think that. His curt reply to me was’I know Nan,’ Oh I said and how do you know? His quick answer to me was as he thumped his breast was-‘Because He is in here in my heart.Children are very open to religion at a young age .Maybe that is was Jesus meant when he said ‘Unless you become like little children you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven’

  35. Michael Mahoney is leading us down some interesting paths of thought. At this stage I would only want to throw in a couple of points.
    Commercial organisations are relatively free in the way in which they exercise authority. (I say ”relatively” because employment law gives certain rights to workers, but not ones which are relevant to my point.) Nevertheless they can differ substantially in the way that authority is applied.
    For example, one may have an effective staff consultative committee, another may not. One may use the principle of subsidarity (Y theory, for organisational buffs), another may operate in a top downwards authoritative fashion (X theory). But the shareholders, via the board, have the same power in each case.
    Commercial organisations are subject however to external constraints. That is, if their use of authority is inappropriate, the business will suffer, either through direct inefficiency or through industrial bickering.
    Thus two parishes may share the same formal powers, but exercise them quite differently. But the constraints, such as reduced congregations or lack of Christian expression within the community, may not bother the pp at all. He can always find some other factor to blame.
    The second point I make is that, although culture may be caused by a number of factors, radical change is unlikely unless its is initiated or strongly supported by leadership authority.

  36. eclaire says:

    If some priests have taken it upon themselves to allow divorced, remarried couples to receive Holy Communion, for example, and their bishops have knowingly permitted this, or actively encouraged teaching at variance with that given by the Pope, might it not be possible to conclude that these same priests and bishops will also see fit to act freely in all other areas, too? And, might it not be also possible to infer that seeing a Church near moral collapse due to a lack of disciplining (Philip Trower, in his thoroughly researched book, ‘Turmoil & Truth’, writes, that Paul VI ‘gave warnings, but never – except in one instance – disciplined, or punished’) that some, like the completely corrupt leader of the Legionaries of Christ, would not take advantage of that particular culture? The problems do go back further than Vatican II (to modernism in the late 18th century and, more recently, to the French and German theologians in the 1930s and 1940s – Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx and Fr. Hans Kung, to name but two – who rebelled against Church teaching as Trower writes, but whose leading representatives were still permitted to attend the Council), but the full impact of the problems were most definitely felt after Vatican II (when many conciliar decrees were deliberately misinterpreted, or things were introduced that were not mentioned in the decrees themselves). One need only use one’s own eyes and ears to see that after Vatican II (whose original purpose was to make the faithful holier), there was a ‘record of mass departures from the priesthood and religious life; a devastating drop in priestly and religious vocations; an equally devastating drop in attendance at Mass (‘the heart of Catholic Christianity’), infant baptisms and conversions; the almost complete abandonment over wide areas of the sacrament of confession; in many places a stripping of churches and sale of their furnishings and sacred vessels…’ the list goes on and on. I believe there is a link (direct in some cases, indirect in others) between this and the present, dire situation in which the Church finds itself. I understand that some will think otherwise and not regret that our Popes were not more active in suppressing disobedience; they will argue that that disobedience was (is) nothing else than ‘freedom of opinion’, but then I wonder why they also say that they believe in a Holy and Apostolic Church, for if one believes that a Church teaches with authority, then surely one has to respect that authority and the doctrines of that Church -in their entirety?
    I can appreciate, in part, Michael Mahoney’s viewpoint (and in particular when he refers to the Magdalene Laundries, though I still think that that matter is different from the one involving paedophile priests). In some respects, the problems in the Church are indeed complex. However, I think that one is entitled to put forward another view (especially when that view often tends to be overlooked by those who argue that the Church has abused its position of authority (given to it by Christ) and that therefore, that authority should now be partitioned between all the faithful (as if the laity were all of the same mind, in any case, and equally knowledgeable in matters of faith and doctrine!). I do not believe that that is what Christ intended for His Church, but neither do I believe that clerics are entitled to lord it over the faithful; some may have done just that, but many more have not. Parishioners should get involved in some church activities (indeed, I do), but they should also respect and trust their priests and most priests are very worthy of both respect and trust, let alone, support and love. I know of two cases where priests have legitimately disbanded the choir (in the parish church for which they are responsible), and in both cases they were right to do so. To put it bluntly, the members of these choirs were puffed up busybodies who cared for nothing more than showing off their gowns and skullcaps and parading onto the altar area; they were not interested in praising God through music, nor seeing the priest’s (and, may I add, other parishioners’ point of view). Anyone visiting these churches (believers, or not) would have seen in them nothing but a pathetic (and mockable) distraction.
    Many people believe (and I include myself) that the root cause of our problems lies in some of our priests and bishops’ lack of genuine holiness and this has resulted in arrogant dissent from Church teaching. Instead of wishing to safeguard the truths given to us by Christ, they have wanted to usurp the authority of the Pope in order to gain popularity with the public. Our priests and bishops, indeed all of us, need to be holier and more prayerful, but I also agree that on a practical level, certain changes do need to be made within the Church (for example in the area of communication as Claret wrote somewhere) and individuals, too, need to be made accountable for their evil actions.

  37. Vincent says:

    eclaire, you say many good and interesting things in your last contribution, and I just throw in a couple of thoughts.
    You appear to date corruption in the Church back to 18th century Modernism. But here is a relevant quote:
    “I tell you, on behalf of Christ crucified, it befits you to achieve three chief things through your power. Do you uproot in the garden of Holy Church the malodorous flowers, full of impurity and avarice, swollen with pride: that is, the bad priests and rulers who poison and rot that garden. Ah me, you our Governor, do you use your power to pluck out those flowers! Throw them away, that they may have no rule! Insist that they study to rule themselves in holy and good life.”

    That was Catherine of Siena writing to Gregory XI in the 14th century. There has been corruption in high places in the Church since the beginning.

    We do not know how much paedophilia and ephebophilia occurred in the past precisely because, as we have seen, the authorities prefer to conceal it. And they were in a much stronger position to do so in the atmosphere of “Yes sir, no sir, 3 bags full sir” which preceded the Council.

    Andrew Greeley, the distinguished priest-sociologist, is quite clear that Humanae Vitae, and not the Council, was the major factor in the disconnect between the Catholic laity and Church authority. That does not tell us whether the ruling was right or wrong, and Greeley is not infallible. But he is expert, and his source is well established data. I have to prefer that to speculation, however thoughtful.

  38. st.joseph says:

    I would rather believe Philip Trower’s throughley researched book than Andrew Greeleys thoughts anytime!

  39. Vincent says:

    st.joseph, your comment is loaded. You describe Trower’s book as “thoroughly researched”, and compare it with Andrew Greeley’s “thoughts”. It would have been more evenhanded to compare it with “Greeley’s inference from professionally analysed sociological data.”
    As a matter of fact Trower and Greeley do not necessarily contradict each other. This line of thinking would merely argue that the loss of authority occasioned by Humanae Vitae allowed the demons of the false values of the Enlightenment free rein to do their work.

  40. st.joseph says:

    Vincent. For once I am not argueing the point on Humanae Vitae as I didnt know what his comments were on that.
    My experience of Fr Andrew Greeley is the fact of his pornographic novel he wrote years ago. I felt it was quite unfitting for a man of the cloth. In fact it was the one time I wrote to Rome to Cardinal Gagnon and did receive a reply. Which I still have!
    My other opinions of him comes from my experiences of reading The Battle for Vatican 2 by Richard Cowden-Guido and Michael
    S Rose’s book GoodBye ,Good Men.
    Like you I can only make my decisions and thoughts on who read and what we believe ,like you have done on Fr Greeley.

  41. eclaire says:

    Vincent, thank you for your response.
    I am aware that corruption has been rife in the Church even from the earliest years of her existence. We all know that evil is a parasite and will ‘naturally’ attach itself to the good, the true and the innocent. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Church (Christ’s bride) should have been especially targetted for she is all these things and very beautiful, too.
    I do not know of Andrew Greeley (thank you, st. joseph for the extra information you provide), but allow me to refer to Trower once more (for I have his book at hand and regrettably, do not have the time right now to delve into the other books I possess). Trower writes that there was indeed a violent ‘explosion’ following the issuing of Humane Vitae (partly because Pope Paul VI took a while before ‘making up his mind’ and since many people were already using contraception they did not want to be told now that it was seriously wrong to do so, but he also states the following:-
    ‘But Humanae Vitae was not the only problem…..Catholics do not abandon large numbers of their beliefs and moral principles if they have been serving God as they ought.’ Trower then continues his argument by saying that ‘when the Council introduced the teaching about episcopal collegiality’, the ‘possibilities of temptation’ for bishops, in the area of resenting the Pope’s ‘higher office and authority’ was ‘greatly enhanced.’ Rather than accept the Pope’s authority, the bishops had already decided to ‘take as their model the contemporary man of influence and power.’ ‘The businessman-bishop found that standing up to his rebellious clergy was more disagreeable than defying the Pope, his orthodoxy and loyalty began to evaporate.’ And, finally; ‘ All this is symptomatic of a slow slide from the level of supernatural faith to the level of natural religious belief’ – the ‘theory of revelation through personal experience’ and that takes us back to modernism. I have not done Trower’s book justice by quoting here and there, and although I was far too young to appreciate what was happening at the time, I know that the early sixties and beyond were tumultuous years and I remember clearly what devout Catholic family and friends thought about it all. There have always been those who have agitated for the easier option, I suppose there always will be.

  42. The interesting exchange of views taking place here acts, for me, as a commentary on the reason behind having a faith and science column, accompanied by its own blog. The fundamental doctrines of the faith, and the inferences drawn therefrom, were expressed within the mindset and the understanding of the time.
    The spirit of the Enlightenment (summed up in Kant’s “dare to know”) was a major pivotal point in which the axis of knowledge moved from authority to discovery through evidence. While not only good but essential, it was corrupted by its (unevidenced) assumption that it comprehended, either in practice or theory, the whole of what could be known.
    On the other side, authority was corrupted by placing obedience before truth.
    It is clear from all our discussions that we often disagree on the questions which arise. And that is good, because we are engaged on a shared exploration which will doubtless continue until the Day of Judgment.

  43. John Candido says:

    This contribution, and the two following comments (to date), have been copied into a new post, which is titled Candid Candido. It would be useful if you would use that new post to comment on the John Candido letter.

    The Catholic Church in parts is a thoroughly disgusting institution. The Vatican is insensitive to outside opinion because it is so wrapped up in its own collective ego and position of power. Nobody elects them except themselves. The laity have no say as to who will be a Bishop, or any other high-ranking prelate within our dioceses or within the Vatican. Ask yourself, do they talk to anybody outside their inner circle? No, they do not. Why not? Because nobody has any power to remove anybody within the Vatican except the Pope, who can only go by resignation or death. What is so obvious about the Vatican is that as an institution, it is self-perpetuating, unelectable, and therefore moribund as a consequence. This is the essence of the Vatican.

    Parts of the Vatican are tainted by a disgusting group of celibate paedophile protectors, who have the gall and arrogance to defend clergy who have commited crimes against children. In addition, the Pope’s capacity to govern the church is now under question because of decisions he took while he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and for former decisions he made while he was an Archbishop in his native Germany. His suitability to govern is also under question because of decisions he has taken while holding the office of Pope. Vis-a-vis, the apointment of Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson as a catholic bishop, his risable comment about condom use in Africa, for his poor handling of ecumenical relations with the Anglican Church in England, and for inadvertently insulting the people of the Islamic faith through a speech he gave at a German university. Sadly, it looks increasingly the case that the Pope should resign his office.

    Please pause for a moment and contemplate what has happend to thousands of vulnerable children around the world. What parts of the Vatican and other diocesan bishops have done by protecting priests who have committed serious crimes is to spit into the faces of children, spit into the faces of women who have been abused, and spit upon the very face of Christ himself! And in tandem with their own bankrupt policies of clergy management, they have also treated the law with total contempt. There is no question that the modern world is aghast by this and will not acknowledge the church as having any credibility or integrity.

    The Vatican as an institution lacks the virtues of courage and humility, and a governing culture bounded by transparency and accountability. These virtues and values of governance are linked, because you need courage in order to be humble and you need both courage and humility in order to accomodate transparency and accountability. To wit, the church needs to humbly admit its searing errors regarding child abusers and summon the courage to reform its structures, processes, disciplines, policies, and doctrines. In addition, it needs a thorough updating through doctrinal reform by looking at the knowledge gained through the research of universities into the human condition. It must incorporate into its doctrines a modern understanding of psychology, psychiatry, genetics, sexology, sociology, and anthropology. To fail to reform their thoroughly mediaeval doctrinal positions on sex, sexuality, and birth control, is utterly non-catholic because it is not consistent with the truth of modern knowledge as the world knows it. To remain ignorant of a modern understanding of human beings in order to maintain the status quo on all her teachings, is to truely lack courage and humility. In consequence, the Vatican is a poorly led coward’s paradise populated by paedophile protectors and law breakers.

    One essential starting point that the church cannot compromise on is the notion that every human being, believer and non-believer alike, is absolutely entitled to their own conscience. The primacy of the individual conscience is an unasailable reality that cannot be diluted by any individual or power structure. It will take some courage and humility for the Vatican, their apologists, as well as the multitude of sycophants and conservative ratbags around the world, to accept this unconditionally. Any attempts to dilute this teaching on conscience while the modern secular world is watching will be fatal for the church’s mission to spread the Gospel. Not only will she be exposed for the antediluvian fossil that she is, but the modern world will declare her a risible farce.

    How do we resist a power structure that is dysfunctional, vainglorious, self-perpetuating, and unassailable? What I have done over the last decade is to stop going to mass for good and to take up Christian Meditation, as rediscovered and taught by the late Fr. John Main OSB and currently led by Fr. Lawrence Freeman OSB. I will never return to this dark and forbidding institution, which claims an affinity with Jesus Christ, until it is thoroughly reformed and reconstructed. The Vatican is a pox on the Gospel, but she will never see this in a millenia. In addition, don’t send your children to mass or to a catholic school and stop giving any money to their charities and schools. Children can still be taught about the Gospel through personal instruction and the example of their families. Use the internet and the mass media to highlight your disatisfaction, and wherever possible litigate against any church employed individual or structure, that you have reasonable grounds to believe has committed crimes or assisted criminals.

    The modern, civilised, and cosmopolitan world that we have grown up in demands that we take whatever civilised and legal action that is within our means, in order to rectify error in our church. The Catholic Church is currently in a very poor state and it needs our activism and our prayers. She must rediscover humility and courage, together with modern values of governance, such as transparency and accountability. We the laity and whoever is with us, must seek to change what is a structurely moribund institution, by confidently exposing lies, obfuscation, criminality, and ecclesiastical dysfunctionality.

  44. claret says:

    I know that this is the most serious of subjects but I can’t help wondering what made John stop when he had just got started?!
    It would seem that his views on the ‘primary of conscience’ are a ‘get out of jail free’ card that we should all have. Taken to a logical degree it might even be a matter of consience for a priest deprived of a natural outlet for his sexual desires through marriage, as demanded by the Church, to successfully reason with his consience ( as some have done,) that the objects of their sexual perversions enjoyed what was happening to them
    (as some would have at the time,)and so it was sinless.
    That aside i wonder what posters thought about the letter from the Bishops of England and Wales that was read out at Mass last weekend. (John is excused this as he does not attend Mass any more. Incidentally does Fr. Freeman?)
    For me it fell short as it did not address the harm done to those lay Catholics who have loyally kept the faith. It did not say a word about what would happen to any member of the clergy convicted of criminal offences in the future. It said nothing about reform. As John rightly points out this is a letter from unaccountable Bishops who would seem to have taken no account of what any lay Catholic has to say. A corrupt power system sustained by corrupt power.

  45. st.joseph says:

    The Gospel reading for todays Mass is taken from St Johns Gospel.12;44-50. It is worth a look.

    When the Body of Christ is suffering we who belong to His Body suffers too.
    But however the Gospel reading today ought to give us consolation and to hang in there,The Eucharist gives us Life.
    And He has said it.
    We are so Blessed to be able to receive Our Lord in the Mass.

    Jesus did not deny His Body and Blood to Judas, so why should we deny it to ourselves! No one can say we are worthy of such a Gift.

  46. Michael Mahoney says:

    In today’s gospel, we are explicitly told that there is only one culture that is the mark of a Christian community, a culture of fraternal love. And, we can reasonably infer from this that Church structure, Church management or leadership style must be conducive to this end.
    “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

  47. st.joseph says:

    Michael Mahoney, you are so right

    Prince Charles once asked the question ‘What is Love’?.

    I very often hear the words from homilies ‘God so loved the world so much that he gave His only Son.Then at other times’ in homolies ‘It is not our love for God but His Love for us-which flows through us to others! I often think that Gods Love for us is so great-too much sometimes for me to put into action.
    I ponder sometimes when I also hear the words (and I am not a depressive) but ‘I would love to go to God’s own house and live there for all the days of my life! I believe its a Psalm!Perhaps thats because I am just next year coming up to my three score and ten ,and feel I should leave the problems in the Church to this world. How negative can one be.But all I can offer up now is prayers.But you make a good point.

  48. eclaire says:

    No Christian would disagree with the gospel text that Michael Mahoney draws our attention to above, but making (radical)changes in Church structure, management and leadership style does not necessarily mean that a culture of fraternal love would ensue, in fact, we might find, at our cost, that a far greater disaster follows.
    Regarding Quentin’s comment on 27th april (11:03) above: Quentin appears to put all his faith in ‘evidence’, both to prove things and disprove them. What about the heart? What about gut feeling, intuition, a knowledge that comes from within, but is difficult to identify? – checked by reason (personal and especially that issuing from the Church) we can also arrive at the Truth without the constant and draining need for so-called evidence; some artists can tell us a few things about this. Our Lady did not need evidence to know that her Son had risen from the dead. Quentin, I feel, would like to abolish the concept of authority; each to his/her own mind/brain. Is that not a recipe for pride, followed swiftly by hatred? So much for a community of fraternal love.

  49. eclaire says:

    When I mention authority above, I mean authority within the Catholic Church specifically.

  50. eclaire says:

    …the authority given by Jesus Christ to St. Peter.

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